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Aiken Choral Society’s Madrigal Feast is full of Renaissance festive flair

December 3, 2018

What do Renaissance-era costumes, Christmas carols and a boar’s head have in common? They are all part of the Aiken Choral Society’s annual Madrigal Feast, a holiday event unlike any other.

While most holiday events in Aiken involve Christmas tree lightings or parades, the ACS throws a dinner harkening back to late 13th and early 14th century traditions. This “Yuletide Feast” incorporates ancient European holiday themes with modern Christmas traditions.

The event was held at the Reserve Club in Woodside Plantation on Nov. 30. ACS Artistic Director Maureen Simpson, wearing a themed outfit she made herself, said they were almost sold out of tickets Friday night.

“This is the first MTV,” Simpson said about the event. “Opera and masques…the little skits they used to do for entertainment. It had everything, except for a lot of dancing. This was the first MTV.”

The feast, which Simpson calls her “brain child,” was first held several years ago when she became inspired by similar events put on by college and university groups.

This year marked the ACS’s sixth Madrigal Feast.

Scott Cory Dunbar, president of the ACS, said the event was unique in that it was unlike almost any other in Aiken.

“We think of it as the start of the holiday,” Cory Dunbar said. “It’s about a season of joy, fun, and camaraderie.”

Members of the Choral Society, dressed in full costumes, wandered around the tables singing holiday songs and other traditional music. Simpson crowned a king and queen of the feast by drawing names among the participants. This year’s honors went to Ken Messner and Susan Fitch, who were hailed by the room and then presented with a boar’s head, another ancient European tradition.

“Spoiler alert; it’s fake,” Simpson told the room as the constructed boar’s head was brought in on a platter during the ceremony.

Members of the Aiken Community Theatre Youth Wing also participated in the ceremony by acting out a scene from a recent production of the “Canterbury Tales.”

In all, the ACS had a successful start to Yuletide, and are hoping for many more in the future.

To learn more about the Aiken Choral Society, visit aikenchoralsociety.org.

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